Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underground and the American Dream by Patrick Radden Keefe

The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream

Truly fascinating. Keefe did an awesome amount of research, and organized the overlapping stories on different continents so that the pacing was right on this multi-decade tsunami of immigrants from China. Epic in scope and mouth-dropping in detail, these interlocked stories touch so many lives and so many parts of the world, it must have been difficult to know where to begin. The characterizations are rich, however, and Keefe gives us a human-scaled drama. What struck me at the end was how persons of every ethnicity, political stripe, and religious persuasion could find justification in these stories for holding a particular view about immmigration. Let it also be said that people who usually react one way on immigration turned 180 degrees when it came to a boatload of Fujian refugees dumped on Rockaway beach in a storm. Political arch enemies joined hands to save these folks, most of whom undoubtedly had absolutely no clue why anyone was trying to help them. Law-sy, I'd like to see a film made of this. Great reporting.

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